Ethan Stokes, coaching duo highlight All-Press honors

Yaneek Smith

Press Sports Editor

When Lionel Armstead took over the Clay basketball program, he might not have fully known the rebuilding project he would be facing.
But in just one season, Armstead helped the Eagles become one of the best teams in the Northern Lakes League as they moved from the Three Rivers Athletic Conference to the NLL.
Clay won 13 games and finished second in the Cardinal Division. The Eagles lost to a very good Perrysburg team in a sectional final in a hard-fought game, and the team’s future is bright as it will return a number of key players.
Last year, Clay barely won two games.
Out of 11 votes from coaches and members of the press, Armstead received four, as did Lake coach Luke Hickey, making them the Alan Miller Jewelers’ Co-Coaches of the Year. Genoa coach Jon Sandwisch was just behind with three votes.
As for Player of the Year, it was a close finish between the area’s two finest basketball players –– Oak Harbor’s Ethan Stokes, who won, and Genoa’s Walter Plantz, who finished second.
Stokes received six votes and Plantz got five.
Hickey, in his second year leading the team, engineered a tremendous turnaround for the Flyers, taking them from two wins to 17. Lake, which finished third in the Northern Buckeye Conference, fell to Genoa, 69-62, in overtime in a Division III district semifinal. That came after a 72-69 overtime win over on the road in the sectional final, and a 72-61 victory over Huron before that. Bucyrus Wynford
“It’s a testament to our kids because they trusted the process and stayed bought in. We knew the first year would probably be a little tough; we had a lot of inexperienced players that we were counting on,” said Hickey. “We trusted the process that these guys being on the losing end of games would ultimately make them better, (and) it happened even more quickly than we had anticipated as a staff.”
Hickey talked about his team rising to the occasion in the postseason.
“I think our kids relished those opportunities. We talk a lot about living in the moment, and the moment was never too big for them. It’s a testament for how they trusted each other; there was never any panic when we got down in those games. Their selflessness came out in those moments,” he said. “We knew somebody was going to come through. All 12 guys on the roster didn’t care who got the credit. I think that’s what helped us –– our early-season success. This was the most selfless group I’ve ever coached.
“We talk about climbing the mountain. We talk about staying the course and knowing there are going to be some highs and lows. When you do that, you always give yourself a chance,” he said.
The Comets, meanwhile, advanced to the district final, falling, 59-47, to Margaretta. Genoa also won 18 games and were the co-champions of the NBC with Fostoria, which it defeated twice.
The Comets have won 34 games in Sandwisch’s first two years leading the program.
As for Stokes, the Rockets’ 6-5 guard, the junior can shoot, drive and dunk, all of which made him a nightmare for opposing teams. He averaged 18.1 points and 4.1 rebounds.
“He’s a very skilled player; his skill level is there. His height is an advantage for him. Ethan’s play-making ability really stood out, and there were games where he was flat-out un-guardable,” said Oak Harbor coach Eric Sweet. “His ability to shoot the jump shot makes him difficult to guard.
“He loves the game; he puts a lot of time into it. He’s a very quiet young man and likes to work out on his own,” Sweet said. “He gets his shots up, gets in the weight room, works on his skills on a routine basis, and I think it shows. I’m excited for the young man –- he’s put a lot of time and effort into the game –– to be recognized by the area coaches and media, it’s a well-earned award. I think he deserves this and I’m proud of him.”
Plantz, a 6-7 sophomore post, averaged 15.5 points, 10.1 rebounds and 3.1 blocks and likely has a bright future in front of him.
Plantz and Stokes earned unanimous first-team honors along with Lake’s Preston Snyder, Woodmore’s Luke Morris and Cardinal Stritch’s Owen Yost.
Lake teammates Caleb Tobias and Travis Merrill were named to the second team with Eastwood’s Andrew Badenhop, Genoa’s Jon Huston and Clay’s Emir Walker.
Northwood’s Brandon Clair, Eastwood’s Dayquan Oliver, Stritch’s Tommie Taylor, Genoa’s Aiden Brunkhorst and Gibsonburg’s Reese Walby earned third-team honors.

First team
Ethan Stokes, Oak Harbor, 18.1 pts, 4.1 rebs, 2.5 asts
Walter Plantz, Genoa, 15.5 pts, 10.1 rebs, 3.1 blks
Luke Morris, Woodmore, 16.7 pts, 5.0 rebs, 2.5 asts, 2.5 stls
Owen Yost, Cardinal Stritch, 15.8 pts, 2.2 stls
Preston Snyder, Lake, 12.2 pts, 8.5 asts, 4.1 rebs, 2.9 stls

Second team
Caleb Tobias, Lake, 12.5 pts, 6.7 rebs
Travis Merrill, Lake, 13.1 pts, 3.9 rebs, 1.8 asts
Andrew Badenhop, Eastwood, 10.8 pts, 3.9 rebs
Jon Huston, Genoa, 11.1 pts, 2.6 rebs, 2.5 asts
Emir Walker, Clay, 14.6 pts, 5.7 rebs

Third team
Brandon Clair, Northwood, 13.5 pts, 6.5 rebs.
Dayquan Oliver, Eastwood, 10.1 pts, 4.4 rebs, 1.2 stls
Tommie Taylor, Cardinal Stritch, 13.4 pts, 6.3 rebs
Aiden Brunkhorst, Genoa, 10.4 pts, 6.8 rebs, 3.0 asts
Reese Walby, Gibsonburg, 10.8 pts, 5.3 rebs

Honorable Mention
Brady Thatcher, Woodmore.
Dan Allen, Oak Harbor
Ryan Routson, Genoa
Dylan Wiley, Lake
Andre Lewis, Eastwood
Malike Shabazz, Waite
Michael LaLonde, Oak Harbor
Kaden Cluckey, Northwood
Zach McGough, Gibsonburg
Drew Kachmarik, Eastwood
Ethan Clair, Northwood
Isaiah Hyde, Waite


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